Hopes that “vaccination passports” might open the way to overseas holidays this summer have been dashed after the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that “critical unknowns" about the current generation of Covid-19 jabs make international travel unsafe for the foreseeable future.
Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is already leading a feasibility study into vaccine passports for holiday-makers.
The EU Commission has said it would take roughly three months to put the essential infrastructure in place.
That would potentially mean that the vaccine passport scheme could could be operational by May 17 – the provisional date set for allowing travel for non-essential purposes again.
But the WHO announcement has thrown the vaccine passport preparations into doubt.
The new report says that for now, governments "should not introduce requirements of proof of Covid-19 vaccination for international travel as a condition for departure or entry, given that there are still critical unknowns regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission".
It adds: "Considering that there is limited availability of vaccines, preferential vaccination of travellers could result in inadequate supplies of vaccines for priority populations considered at high risk of severe Covid-19 disease.
"WHO also recommends that people who are vaccinated should not be exempt from complying with other travel risk reduction measures."
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The WHO concerns centre on the disparity between vaccination take-up in different countries. According to the latest figures, just over 6.5% of the adults living in the EU had been vaccinated — in the UK the figure is more than 27%.
Asked if we'll be able to holiday on the continent this summer, one EU insider told The Sun: "I have no crystal ball. It's too soon to say.
"There is a will to make sure by summer that we have 70% of people vaccinated."
Britain’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam confirmed that the Government was looking at the issue of vaccine passports, but said there was no certainly they would be implemented pointing out that there were "plausible arguments for and plausible arguments against".
Melinda Mills, director of the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science at Nuffield College, Oxford, warned that vaccine passports could be used to erode our freedoms.
Writing in the Financial Times, she said there were “serious ethical concerns if a vaccine QR code that tracks movement is linked to other data — say housing and immigration status — without our knowledge”.
She added that there was still a very real question about whether a UK-only vaccine passport is worth the inevitable cost, pointing out that it would depend on the success of the vaccine rollout, and new mutated variants of the virus, among other factors.
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